Iowa gay marriage ruling elicits mixed reaction

Olivia Wainhouse

On April 3, a unanimous ruling by Iowa’s Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional to prevent same-sex couples from obtaining marriage licenses in the state.

Meanwhile, on April 7, Vermont became the fourth state to legalize gay marriage after Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa; same-sex marriages will be permitted in Vermont starting in September of this year.

With Iowa as the first Midwestern state to legalize gay marriage, NU students are divided as to whether the ruling will spur similar judicial or legislative action on same-sex marriage laws in other Midwestern states.

“I was very, very excited,” said Jess Abels, a Medill sophomore. “It’s great that Iowa can take a first step in the Midwest toward something like this.”

Communication freshman Kimberly Nelson said she was surprised because Iowa is traditionally known as a “conservative state.”

“I was really proud of my state because we’re generally quite conservative,” she said. “Iowa is red minus Des Moines and Iowa City. If you look at the state, it’s almost completely conservative minus these two population epicenters.”

Sociology Prof. Wendy Espeland said the ruling was “progressive” and reflective of the changing attitude of the country.

“Even though this was a judicial opinion, this is a sign of the times,” she said. “In the long run, denying the right of gay people or people of any sexual persuasion to marry will be ruled unconstitutional.”

Vermont, which had already legalized civil unions, is the most recent East Coast state to join the league of same-sex marriage states.

As for the direction other states are taking on legalizing same-sex marriages, Vermont native Kyle Midura said the success of the policy in his home state might cause others to adopt similar stances on the issue.

“One state can try something out, and depending how it goes, states will either follow suit or they won’t,” the Medill senior said.

The recent Iowa and Vermont decisions might also reflect generational differences, Espeland said.

“Younger people are much more sympathetic than older people to that argument,” she said. “They’re much more comfortable with that idea.”

Patrick Dawson, co-president of NU’s Rainbow Alliance, said he was excited about the Iowa news.

“I think especially coming out of the Midwest, it really says a lot about the universality of the issue,” the Weinberg junior said. “Justices in Iowa recognize that it is an infringement on people’s rights. You’re denying a group of people the name of marriage.”

Dawson said he thinks the Iowa ruling will fit into the larger picture of gay rights in the United States.

“I think this sends a message that regardless of where you are, that this is something that is unconstitutional,” he said. “I think that this sets the precedent. If a state like Iowa can do it – even though the Midwest is not always associated with being progressive – other states are going to think it’s time for us to take this issue on.”

Students from Iowa on campus said that at home, reactions to the ruling were mixed.

Nelson, who attended a conservative Catholic high school, said her school “held a prayer service of sorts for them to repeal the amendment.”

“I know there was a lot of animosity toward the subject,” she said.

Abels added that some Iowans wanted the ruling to have been worded differently.

“I talked to a lot of people who had said if they would’ve phrased it in a more of a civil union stance, then they would’ve been more accepting,” she said. “But because it’s marriage, they view that as solely a religious institution.”

However, Weinberg junior Margaret Hlebowitsh said people seem “pretty proud of the state.”

“One of my friends texted me, ‘Way to go Iowa!'” she said.

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